The left tackle position was a bit of a revolving door in 2011 for the Bills due to injury. Though there appear to be some viable options to address the position from this past season's roster Bills GM Buddy Nix indicated the intention to address the all-important offensive line spot further. Nix listed it right behind a pass rusher and another big wideout.
"We're going to draft a tackle if we can," he said. "If there's one there is what I mean. If there's one there that we think can play we're going to draft a tackle. You can never have too many tackles."
Buffalo's intentions are understandable given the circumstances. Demetrius Bell managed just six games as a fractured collar bone and torn meniscus kept him sidelined for most of the season. He's expected to be 100 percent healthy in a couple of weeks following end of season surgery to repair his meniscus. Meanwhile rookie Chris Hairston got off to a good start spelling Bell in Weeks 5 and 6 before a high-ankle sprain put him on the inactive list for three weeks.
"Demetrius Bell has got all the tools," said Nix. "He's got the good feet. He's a good athlete. He's what you look for at left tackle. The problem with Demetrius is injuries. He started the first four games for us and gets hurt. He missed several more and comes back and plays three and he ends up hurt again. He was rehabbing last year the whole year couldn't practice all week. All those things enter into it."
Bell realizes his injury history will not reflect favorably when it comes to securing a new contract from the Bills or any other team in the league. He just hopes the team that knows him best respects his willingness to play hurt whenever possible.
"I think if you know the extent of the (knee) surgery (in 2010) then you know what I can endure and what I can't endure," said Bell. "Last year I played 16 games with one leg. This year I just had those injuries I couldn't play with and I had to sit out. Injuries are something that happens in this game and if I'm committed to a team and signed to a team I'm going to give them all I've got until I can't go anymore."
The problem is not having your starting left tackle available week in and week out can disrupt the continuity of an offensive line. Hairston performed admirably early, but when he was pressed back into starting duty after missing three games he was eventually replaced by Bell once he was healthy again. In the eyes of Nix, Hairston just hasn't arrived as an NFL player yet.
"Chris Hairston I think can be a really good left tackle," Nix said. "He's a rookie. It's going to take him a little bit. He got some good experience this year."
Nix said it is the club's preference to re-sign Bell, who will be an unrestricted free agent come the afternoon of March 13th absent a new deal, but his injury history will no doubt affect the value of any proposal the Bills put in front of him.
Either way Bell knows where he'd like to be next season.
"I talked to Buddy not too long ago and told him this is home for me," said Bell. "This is all I know. I talked to my position coach and I told him I would love to be back. But it's a process and I wish it was all over with and it's just getting started. Hopefully I'll be back here in a couple of months."
The only catch is he's likely to have some added company.